Sister Heliena M. Krenn, SSpS


Chung-Wai Literary Monthly 23.5 (1994): 35-45.
    Victory presents a contest of minds and philosophies and since headgear symbolizes what goes on inside the head, different items of headwear serves clues to the course the mental contest takes. Originally Mr. Jones, Rocardo, Heyst, and through him Lena are featured in ¡§cork helmets,¡¨ which are symbolically suggestive of power, martial prowess, and lofty thoughts, whereas Pedro, Morrison, and Captain Davidson wear ¡§hats.¡¨ With the arrival of Mr. Jones, the woman hater, is betrayed by Ricardo, who hides from him the knowledge of Lena¡¥s presence on the island, and Heyst has to confess that he is a ¡§dismissed¡¨ man in every way as his philosophy of universal scorn fails him. Subsequently these men¡¦s headgear is referred to as ¡§hats¡¨ and no further mention is made of hamlets.

    At this point a purple veil is mentioned that, according to Heyst, is to ensure Lena's safety. From the beginning of their acquaintance, numerous examples of Heyst's sensation that Lena is "veiled" to his comprehension establish the character of the veil as symbolizing qualities in woman that evade the understanding of man. The purple color increases this symbolic effect and Lena's gesture of holding the veil in her hands expresses her determination to rely on those qualities in coping with the dangers of the presence of Mr. Jones and his companions. In doing so she brings about a confrontation of all male characters with the truths of their situation. Lena is also called Alma and Magdalen. These names and the veil symbol establish her representative function which gains in significance when seen within the historical context of the composition of this novel which shows women in England fighting for the right to vote.